Thursday, October 17, 2013

One Twelfth of Me

                It is now mid-October and most of the growing season is behind us. As of recently, each year has provided if not one EXTREMELY out of the ordinary weather event, multiple events not normal for the region. So, how has the 2013 season been thus far?
                To begin, the title to this entry is an awful one, and the reader is sure to figure that out eventually. Nonetheless, it has been put out there for what it is and the explanation is to follow…
                In this entry, I will relay how the weather affected our region throughout the 2013 season thus far. As a farmer who has witnessed many EXTREMELY out of the ordinary weather situations over the past decade or so, I have learned that some drastic situation awaits around every corner, so to speak, and when it will strike is more a guess, actually, an accurate assumption at this point, than anything else. In fact by writing about this I have surely jinxed the situation… that is, if a jinx can be added posthumously, but I digress.
                Nonetheless, as I approach a given weather situation in any given year in our current time period, I have been quite accurate to predict a maelstrom of some sort or other. If it is a beautiful sunny day, as the day was today, when asked about the lack of severe weather, I can only reply, “Wait for it…”
                (The voice in my head for the “Wait for it…” part of this entry comes from Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” in the crucifixion sketch. “Crucifixion party!... Wait for it…”)
                I must remind myself to stay focused on the weather and not the other myriad of assaults on the farm, starting with the mouse that ate most of the seeds started in the “grow” greenhouse… Okay, I will stop there and not mention the other assaults such as the first groundhog attack on Field 9…
                Back to topic! The year started out very cool for our region, as it does every so often…  which is a very weak term. “Every so often”. What does that actually mean? Talk about an ambiguous statement. But I digress.To skip past that cliché, over the decade plus that I have been keeping track of the weather on the farm it has happened twice. With such a short span of time to judge by, a 20% rating seems unjustified. Nonetheless, it means nothing to this article other than that this particular spring, that is, the spring of 2013, was rather cool for the region. In the past we have suffered such cataclysmic weather events in the spring such as… Actually, the spring has not been much of an issue. I shall move on. And as for those cataclysmic weather events… Wait for it!
                The summer was somewhat mild as well. The odd thing was that occasional rain fell throughout most of that season. NOW THAT WAS ODD! That cannot be deemed cataclysmic, that was actually quite beneficial. There has not been a year as ideal growing-wise, other than the cooler temperatures, than this current one up until mid-August. Only briefly did we, collectively, have to pause and say, “By the dog, but it is HOT!!!” And those few days of high heat and humidity are actually to be expected in our region at that time of year. In many ways, we got off easy this summer!... Wait for it!
                By mid-August, the precipitation had stopped… dead. As a mid-Maryland farmer, I am used to that. It is expected. For the “drought” to appear so late is quite odd. Nonetheless, we experienced over a month of VERY little precipitation. And yet the CRAZY high heat of some of the past years did not appear. By that part of the year, the question had definitely arisen in my mind. What is going on here? Where is the insane weather events that have tormented the farm over the past few years?
                I stopped short of actually asking that question. I am quite aware of the advice, “be careful of what you ask for…” So, the year progressed without any cataclysmic weather event, and as mentioned above, I will not get into, say, how zebra caterpillars, harlequin stink bugs and Mexican bean beetles descended upon the farm in plague-like fashion. No, I will not describe here how entire crops, such as turnips, rutabagas, pac choi, broccoli, cabbage, yellow, green and purple beans and radishes were completely devoured by an onslaught easily a hundred times more intense than any other year experienced. That is not the point of this entry. This entry is about the weather, that is cataclysmic weather events, and through August and September, no such cataclysmic weather event arose… Wait for it!
                Lori, who started working with me at the farm, is from Olean, New York. Olean is south of Buffalo and is in the far western portion of New York state. While she has a lot of experience working for an organic farm in that region, she has learned quite a bit about growing using the same methods in our region, the mid-Atlantic. Bugs, pests are the first “new” entries to her organic vocabulary, so to speak. They have bugs, pests also in the western New York region, only nothing remotely equivalent to the constant onslaught in the mid-Atlantic, but again, the focus of this entry is cataclysmic weather events… Wait for it!
                Lori seems to take things in stride, at least the strange words that constantly pour forth from my mouth, and she did not blink when I stated that those of us in the mid-Atlantic actually HOPE for a hurricane, or at least a tropical storm to develop in the gulf of Mexico and make its way northward to eventually drop the remnants of the storm on our extremely parched crops late in the season. This year, no such storm developed… which can actually be a good thing, since the size of such storms has been increasing over the years. Instead of two or three inches of rain, we have received at least twice that amount, which is definitely more rain than we could use. But, as I mentioned, this year no tropical storms headed our way at least into October… Wait for it!
                Another aspect of mid-Maryland weather with which Lori was not familiar was the nor’easter. Yes, the nor’easter, the storm that gets pinned over the region turning moderate rain and snow storms into colossal dumpings of precipitation. Last week, the weather forecast predicted the first rain in quite some time to fall Thursday through Saturday. The same forecast called for about one and a half inches of rain over two days. AND THEN IT HAPPENED! That moderate storm did indeed get pinned in the area in the form of a nor’easter and proceeded to drop a deluge of water on the area. On the farm, seven and a quarter inches fell. SEVEN AND A QUARTER INCHES!!! Now that is what I call a cataclysmic weather event!
                In years past, a severe rain storm would be as much as three inches of rain. Now, three inches of rain seems like a drizzle. This past rain of seven and a quarter inches has become almost expected… well, at least I expected it… and waited for it. But it has struck me that by writing out “seven and a quarter inches” the reality of the situation has not been accurately relayed. So, in my strange manner of thinking, a new way to relay just how much rain that is has been devised. It is… one twelfth of me. Actually, it is over one twelfth of me. Of course as soon as I thought about that I realized that the assumption that the reader would be aware of my height would cause problems. After all, I could be four feet tall, and the rain would have been four inches. Or I could be a giant, and not what I actually am, six feet tall. Nonetheless, I warned the reader that it was a terrible title…
                Nonetheless, 2013 is yet another year to experience a cataclysmic weather event. For sure, so far, through over three quarters of the year, we have only been assaulted by a rather “mild” cataclysmic weather event. And as the climate continues to change… rapidly, 2013 has been a rather tame one for us here in the mid-Maryland, mid-Atlantic region. I hope I did not just jinx the rest of the year… Wait for it…

Thursday, October 10, 2013

I'm Organic Revisited

                In early August, I posted an entry titled “I’m Organic”, and I asserted at that time that I was quite skeptical about the intention behind multiple mailings and e-mails sent to me regarding an attempt to unify the organic movement. The group behind the “I’m Organic” campaign was the Organic Trade Association. And after only a month and a half, the results are in, so to speak.
                To jump quickly to what is behind almost all of the insanity that has enslaved, and I mean ENSLAVED, our representative democracy is BIG INDUSTRY. Our sources of energy are predominately petroleum based… why? Because of powerful BIG OIL corporations. We are in the midst of a government shutdown… why? Because BIG INSURANCE corporations and BIG PHARMACEUTICAL corporations do not want United States citizens to be allowed affordable healthcare. The majority of food offered to our citizens have been covertly turned into poisons… why? Because BIG AGRICULTURE corporations have a vested interest in producing… poison… rather than health. And ALL of that idiocy is the result of decades of unchecked greed. Money!
                It occurred to me earlier that a lot of my whimsical humor has been lacking in my recent Tales of Idyllia, and while my intention is to add more humor, the daily reality that is thrust upon us otherwise well-meaning United States citizens has become absolutely absurd! Witnessing the current government shutdown merely reflects how our representative democracy is a façade at best, and a complete failure in its current ability to reign in the power of MONEY! All of this can change of course, but as the climate continues to change rapidly, health ailments escalate… at much younger ages, etc., etc., etc., it is difficult to laugh oneself beyond the grim, that is VERY GRIM situation that has developed.
                The previous statement was merely an aside. And now… on to the glorious tale of the Organic Trade Association’s recent push…
                My  suspicions have come to fruition. The Organic Trade Association (OTA) is a very large vehicle of BIG AGRICULTURE attempting to control the term “organic” for their means.  The e-mails and mailings with the title “I’m Organic”, all pretty pictures aside, were to entice us actual “in the dirt” organic farmers to add our e-mails to their list so that they could persuade congress into thinking that the organic community as a whole is on their side. The Organic Trade Association has devised a “check off” situation that they have decreed will better help organics in the future…
                These are evil entities! The struggle to maintain integrity in organic farming has been extremely difficult over the years due to the pressure of BIG AGRICULTURE to change and cheapen the rules, and this is ONE of the latest attempts to minimalize that ongoing integrity. Organic farming is quite simple to define and relay as long as it is honest. There will be no chemical form of anything in vegetable production, no hormones, etc., in animal rearing, and nothing synthetic in any processed organic foods. It was the Organic Trade Association Rider passed by Congress that has allowed some synthetic ingredients in processed organic foods, such as carrageenan.
                So, just what is this “check-off” program the OTA has put forth? From their own website page: “Why a research and promotion check-off program? In order to distinguish organic in the market place, grow demand, and help the consumer understand all that organic delivers, requires collective resources and coordination beyond those currently available to the industry are required. Increased demand for organic products supports U.S. organic agriculture and rural communities.” It goes on to stress that there is often “confusion” over the difference between organic and products labeled “natural”. The check-off program would create an ad campaign to promote organic in a similar manner of the ad campaigns for the “Incredible, Edible, Egg” and “Got Milk?” Under this ad campaign, more research will be collected on the health benefits of organics. The page closes with “Check-off programs are fair because everyone pays in. Not the few funding the many.” And “The OTA board adopted as a ‘Bold Step’ or strategic objective, that OTA facilitate an industry decision on an organic Research and Promotion Program.”
                Sounds great does it not? But let’s look into this a little, shall we? First off, this check-off program has been quite sneaky in its formulation. All of the “I’m Organic” mailings and e-mails were attempts to get organic farmers to add their names to the OTA e-mail list, which they used to try to push the program through congress with the assertion that all the names listed were in agreement. In my last entry on “I’m Organic”, I expressed that I suspected something of that nature was afoot. Such dubious undertakings are never underestimated by me. It is an immediate and LARGE red flag. Any time someone or something attempts to “manipulate the vote”, if you will, bad things are behind such an attempt, especially if it has to do with something based on integrity, such as organic farming. After taking into account that the OTA was behind the “Rider” that allowed some synthetic ingredients in processed organic food, a VERY, VERY LARGE RED FLAG has appeared.
                Nonetheless, such organization of organic and advertising, research, etc., does sound like a good thing… if that is what it is truly about. To continue this analysis on face value, I read into some critiques on the Check-Off Program. Most of the arguments I read stated that facts do not bear out the supposed success behind the “Got Milk?” and the “Incredible, Edible, Egg” ad campaigns. The reality of the situation is that the farmers do not benefit, only the higher ups, the advertisers, the marketers, etc. Essentially, the program would require organic farmers to pay yet another fee that ultimately will not benefit them. As anyone who farms, that is, farms with their hands in the dirt, knows, paying another fee is not one we can afford.
                As for the statement, “Check-off programs are fair because everyone pays in. Not the few funding the many.” That is a RED FLAG beyond what is acceptable. Talk about a 1% comment, only that comment originates from BIG AGRICULTURE. How belittling! To suggest that the organic farmer should help pay for BIG AGRICULTURE’s benefit! Egads! Yet they are not dealing with the general public. We are organic farmers, that is, realists, and not people easily swindled by greed and corruption.
                One further thing that struck me about the Check-Off Program was the insistence that such a campaign was necessary to promote organic. Nonsense. And this raises yet another RED FLAG, but allow me to explain. The organic movement started out by word of mouth, spread through communities through farmer’s markets and CSAs. It started out very slowly but has continued to steadily grow every year. Documentaries such as “Food, Inc.” and books such as “The Omnivore’s Dilemma” by Michael Pollen have presented plenty of reason why eating organic is extremely important. More and more of these documentaries and books are released every year… and that information is spread by word of mouth and social media. The fact of the matter is that the organic “community” continues to grow… and rapidly. And that is why BIG AGRICULTURE through the OTA wants to have the say in the matter… only they do not understand what “community” means. It is a foreign concept to them. Whereas “community” is concerned with public health in general, BIG AGRICULTURE is concerned with MONEY.
                In conclusion, I do not support the Check-Off Program and will continue to farm organically with my community approach. And I will repeat from the earlier posting, I’m organic, I’m just not convinced they are.